Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The importance of yield on cost

Yield on cost is a controversial term, which is calculated by dividing the dividends received from an investment over the cost paid for the shares. There are many arguments whether yield on cost matters or not. I typically view yield on cost as a forward looking metric, which combines my yield and growth expectations into a single indicator that translates into tangible dividend income at a future point. As a dividend growth investor, I want to purchase companies that can afford to regularly grow dividends out of consistent earnings growth.

For example, let’s assume that I invest in a company like Yum! Brands (YUM) which yields 2% today, but could easily afford to grow distributions by 12% /year over the next decade. This would be fueled by strong emerging markets growth in places like China, where competitor McDonald’s (MCD) is a distant second. While a 2% current yield is low for many income investors’ standards, a consistent growth in earnings and distributions could lead to much higher dividend incomes and strong capital gains for investors who buy today. A $1,000 investment today would generate $20 in annual dividend income. If annual dividends grow by 12%/year over the next decade, the annual dividend income will grow to $62, for an 6.20% yield on cost. Chances are that the stock will still yield 2% - 3% ten years from now. As a result, your $1,000 investment would likely have generated significant capital gains in the process as well.

When I first got started in dividend investing, I focused my energies on high-yield closed-end funds. I was attracted to their high yields, and monthly distributions. Unfortunately, at least once every year, each of these funds cut distributions. The stock price would fall, but the dividend yield would correct to the previous level. I would fool myself into believing that reinvesting the distributions into more shares would maintain my income and net worth. Unfortunately, the falling distributions meant that the share prices were declining, which meant that my losses were compounding. My yield on cost was decreasing as well. While my current yield was 10% – 12% on investments such as the Managed High Yield Plus Fund (HYF), my yield on cost was much less than that. Only through reinvestment of distributions was I able to have lower losses.

At the end of 1999, HYF traded at $10.70/share and paid 12.50 cents in monthly distributions. By 2004, HYF was trading around $6/share, and paying a monthly distribution of 5.50 cents/share. The distribution decreased all the way to 4 cents/share by the end of 2007, while the stock price was around $3.71/share. Currently, the Fund is trading around $2/share, and pays a distribution of 1.50 cents/share. You can see that the yields remained high throughout the period. However, for investors who purchased in 1999 or 2004, the yield on cost is equivalent to anywhere between 2% - 3%. In addition, these investors would be sitting at huge unrealized losses.

Other companies who offer similar high yields today, with the prospect of lower distributions over time, include US oil and gas royalty trusts. These trusts purchase established oil and gas assets, and pay out all of the net cashflows to investors. Once the oil and gas wells that these trusts own are pumped out dry in two or three decades, there will be nothing left over. Furthermore, the amount of oil and gas pumped out every year will decline over time, and unless prices increase at much faster rates, distributions will be projected to decrease. This information is typically shown in securities registration statements filed with the SEC. Unfortunately however, many yield chasing investors do not bother reading prospectuses.

Compare this to a typical dividend growth stock where the company is committed to raising dividends per share out of earnings. This type of company is typically overlooked by many yield hungry investors. However, most dividend growth companies in the dividend achievers or dividend champions lists tend to follow a slow and steady approach to raising distributions. Over time, the stock price increases, and yield stays in the same low range. The yield on cost increases however, as evidenced by the high amount of dividend income received by our dividend investor.

Of course, improving fundamentals such as earnings per share are what truly provides the fuel behind rising dividends. Rising dividends is typically a byproduct of rising sales and income.

A few companies that fit the perspective of higher expected earnings over time, and higher dividends include:

The Coca-Cola Company (KO), a beverage company, manufactures, markets, and sells nonalcoholic beverages worldwide. Over the past decade, the company has managed to increase dividends by 9.80%/year, supported by a 7.90% annual increase in earnings. This dividend king has managed to increase dividends for 52 years in a row. Currently, the stock at the top range of valuation range for me at 19.60 times forward earnings. The stock yields 3% at present levels. At a 7% growth in dividends, yield on cost could reasonably be estimated at 11% - 12% in 2034. Check my analysis of Coca-Cola.

Philip Morris International Inc. (PM), through its subsidiaries, manufactures and sells cigarettes and other tobacco products. Earnings per share increased from $3.32 in 2008 to $5.26 in 2013, while quarterly dividend amounts went up from 46 cents/share to 94 cents/share in the same time frame. Philip Morris International has managed to increase dividends for 6 years in a row. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 16.20 times forward earnings and yields 4.50%. At a 9% growth in dividends, yield on cost could reasonably be estimated at 25%  - 26% in 2034. Check my analysis of Philip Morris International.

General Mills, Inc. (GIS) produces and markets branded consumer foods in the United States and internationally. Over the past decade, the company has managed to increase dividends by 9.90%/year, supported by an 8.60% annual increase in earnings. This dividend achiever has managed to increase dividends for 11 years in a row. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 18.20 times forward earnings and yields 3.10%. At an 8% growth in dividends, yield on cost could reasonably be estimated at 14% - 15% in 2034.Check my analysis of General Mills.

ConocoPhillips (COP) explores for, develops, and produces crude oil, bitumen, natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and natural gas liquids worldwide. Over the past decade, the company has managed to increase dividends by 15.70%/year, supported by a 6.20% annual increase in earnings. This dividend achiever has managed to increase dividends for 13 years in a row. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 12.30 times forward earnings and yields 3.70%. At a 7% growth in dividends, yield on cost could reasonably be estimated at 14% - 15% in 2034. Check my analysis of ConocoPhillips.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), together with its subsidiaries, is engaged in the research and development, manufacture, and sale of various products in the health care field worldwide. Over the past decade, the company has managed to increase dividends by 10.80%/year, supported by a 7.20% annual increase in earnings. This dividend king has managed to increase dividends for 52 years in a row. Currently, the stock is attractively valued at 17 times forward earnings and yields 2.80%. At a 7% growth in dividends, yield on cost could reasonably be estimated at 11% in 2034. Check my analysis of Johnson & Johnson.

Full Disclosure: Long YUM, MCD, KO, PM, JNJ, COP

Relevant Articles:

The number one reason why i don't chase high-yielding stocks
Don’t chase High Yielding Stocks Blindly
The Security I Like Best: Philip Morris International (PM)
Yield on Cost Matters
The Dividend Kings List for 2014


  1. The question I have about checking YOC is this:
    I have 100 shares of HD that is currently yielding 2.35% at a current share price of $79.52. My actual cost per share is $32.70 giving me a YOC of about 5.75%. However, looking at the value of my money tied up in HD is now $7952.

    Looking at the rising share price and the dividends I have received that looks pretty good.

    However, I am also considering selling that block of HD and buy into a stock that has a higher current yield and a similar growing dividend stream.

    So my question is – Is it better to take the growth and use the money to buy a better yielding stock? My net out of pocket would remain the same, but I could pick up something that has a higher yield on the current value of my investment. And the yield on my initial investment would be increased as well.

    Of course the trick, as always, is to pick a “better” stock. For now I am still holding on to HD, but ...


    1. Hi Mike,

      You might like this article:


  2. OOPS...I accidentally deleted 3 reader comments that were posted to the site. If you do not see your comment, please resubmit. I apologize for the mix-up

  3. As someone who is looking to supplement my retirement with dividends, I also value a rising YOC. After all, it's like getting a raise in retirement...except your money is doing the working!

    1. I totally agree with you. I trade options for fun, excitement, adrenalin, and income, but love dividends (and use options proceeds to buy DGI stocks) for their ability to grow without you doing nothing. I also like YOC to see what my income is or will be 10 years from now. Many people look at a stock and say "Oh, it only yields 2%, that's nothing" and missed to see, that 10 years from now it will be 15%. I fell in such a trap myself in the past as well.

  4. Concerning closed-end funds, are you stating that there's a flaw with that investment vehicle? I've recently begun researching a variety of CEFs, and have wondered why/how they offer the tempting yields without, imo, much coverage.

    1. I cannot talk about all CEF's. I don't actually follow CEF's. I follow individual dividend growth stocks.



  5. It's interesting that we have differing opinions on YOC. Personally, I view YOC as a worthless metric. All it tells me is how my company has grown dividends since I purchased them X amount of years ago. It tells me nothing about how much the company is yielding (paying) me on the value I own of the company now.

    Although, it looks like you are projecting out into the future in which case I can see the benefit. This seems different compared to how many others view YOC (looking forward rather than backwards). I usually look at historical earnings and dividend growth to try to project what I think may happen going forward the next 5-10 years. I guess I then try to calculate out a total return whereas I can see how understanding how much projected income a stock may pay me 10 years out can be helpful. I think you've made me see a little value in the YOC metric that I didn't think existed before. Thanks!

  6. Hi DGI,

    I hold many of these in my Roth and I'll be contributing the max this year (again).Since we're only allowed a finite dollar amount each year for a Roth, and if you had to choose only one of these, I'm curious as to which you would select.


  7. I wonder if a "future YOC" would be more helpful than the "Chowder Rule" when considering various dividend growth stocks. Since we all have different time periods until retirement, where we start collecting that income instead of reinvesting it, the future YOC at X years out would expose the difference between a low yield high dividend growth rate vs high yield low growth rate stock. Given enough time, the low yield high DGR will provide more income. But "enough time" depends on the years until one's retirement target. Ultimately, the "future YOC" at time of retirement is the benchmark isn't it? We want maximum income from the investments at the time we actually start collecting that income.

    DGI, do you have a target range of "future YOC" you like to see from an investment?

    1. I think that the combination of yield and growth should allow for doubling of dividends every 7 - 10 years. If a stock yields 2%, it better grow that dividend by 7%/year, or else ;-)

      If that stock yields 5%, it better have a sustainable dividend and grow it by at least 3% - 4%.

  8. Ciao DGI,

    To me YOC is very important, but it's also important to have a PF that is yielding a decent amount. So far I have concentrated on getting stocks that are boring and show less signs of growth, in favour of a bigger YOC. That is my building block asset. Later I will start adding those stocks that return very little today, hoping in a stronger growth tomorrow... :)



    1. Hi Stal,

      Thanks for stopping by. I try to balance yield and growth and have built my portfolio around 3 types of companies:

      Ciao - Cacao ;-)

    2. I'll check it out imemdiately :)

  9. DGI,
    How about when the current yield is greater than the YOC due to a stock price tanking? Yes, I own shares of WMT and watched investors drive the price down 10% yesterday in response to the press conference. The price is now less than what I paid for the shares even though I thought I was buying at a good valuation. I guess I'll watch it for a bit and maybe add shares if things settle down. Personally, I think paying people $10/hour is still low, if anything, and trying to improve internet sales (and the store-to-internet interface) are good things. How about a $20B stock buyback while the share price is depressed? At the least I will be keeping the shares and reinvesting dividends.

    Sorry, the WMT story is maybe only tangentially topical to your article. I love YOC, but only track it for our entire portfolio.
    Best wishes,

    1. Hi Keith,

      After two years of low dividend growth, and no earnings growth, I have put WMT on my list “to hold”. I will not consider adding more at this stage, given the lack of earnings growth. I will continue holding – the valuation is low, but on the other hand without earnings growth you won’t get future dividend growth. The stock price might go to $90 or more – but without EPS growth I am not interested.


  10. DGI,
    I asked this question from the last post but think once a new article is posted the old questions don't get seen anymore. It is not related to YOC but I'll try anyway. If you could invest all of your 401k into DGI stocks would you? I fund a SEP and can self direct and buy stocks. But I thought it good to hold some core funds.
    Thanks, KB

    1. Hi KB,

      If I could buy dividend stocks in my 401 (k) I would do that. Unfortunately, my 401 (k) limits me to mutual funds only.

      I do buy individual dividend stocks for my taxable accounts, and my IRA accounts.
      I have previously rolled over old 401 (k) plans into IRA, and bought individual dividend stocks for income. The plan is one day to convert 401 (k) with index funds into a dividend cash machine.

      Best Regards,

      Dividend Growth Investor

      PS I respond to comments when I get time - which could be anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after I see them. Sometimes I get no time, so I can't respond ;-(


Questions or comments? You can reach out to me at my website address name at gmail dot com.

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